Tag Archives: Autism

Understanding the Social Signs of Autistic People

“One of the most widely held beliefs about autistic people — that they are not interested in other people — is almost certainly wrong. Our understanding of autism has changed quite a bit over the past century, but this particular belief has been remarkably persistent…  Even now, a National Institutes of Health fact sheet suggests that autistic people are ‘indifferent to social engagement,’and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims that some ‘might not be interested in other people at all.”  V.  K. Jaswal and N. Akhtar, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Photo- Autism Speaks.

Excerpt: How to Meet Autistic People Halfway, By Vikram K. Jaswal and Nameera Akhtar, The New York Times

“Seventy-five years ago, the first published account of autism described its subjects as ‘happiest when left alone’ and ‘impervious to people’…There is no question that autistic people can seem as though they are not interested in others. They may not make eye contact or they may repeat lines from movies that don’t seem relevant in the moment. They may flap their hands or rock their bodies in ways that other people find off-putting. But just because someone appears socially uninterested does not mean that he or she is…As the autistic author Naoki Higashida writes, ‘I can’t believe that anyone born as a human being really wants to be left all on their own, not really,” adding, ‘The truth is, we’d love to be with other people.’

So why do autistic people act in ways that make it appear they want to be left alone? Autism is a neurological condition that affects how people perceive, think and move. Autistic people say that some of their apparently unsociable behaviors result from these neurological characteristics. Paradoxically, they may behave in these ways when they are trying to engage with other people.

Take eye contact. Some autistic people say they find sustained eye contact uncomfortable or even painful. Others report that it’s hard to concentrate on what someone is saying while simultaneously looking at them. In other words, not looking someone in the eye may indicate that an autistic person is trying very hard to participate in the conversation at hand. Unfortunately, this attempt to engage often gets interpreted as a lack of interest… Some popular autism interventions recommend that parents and teachers attempt to train autistic children to make eye contact or to stop repeating themselves or flapping their hands.

The problem with this is that the neurological makeup of an autistic person may make it difficult or impossible for him or her to do so… For all of us, whether we are socially motivated at any given time depends on much more than our innate predisposition for sociability… Autistic people have been making the case for decades that they are interested in other people, and that they do not intend their unusual behaviors to indicate otherwise.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions:  Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Autistic people can seem as though they are not interested in others.
  2. In some cases autistic people are desperate for social connection.
  3. Autistic people may behave in strange ways deemed unsociable.
  4. Paradoxically, they may behave in these ways when they are trying to engage with other people.
  5. Some autistic people say they find sustained eye contact uncomfortable or even painful.
  6. Or consider another common autistic behavior: echolalia.
  7. Wrongly assuming that someone is not socially motivated can have devastating consequences.
  8. The presumption that autistic people are not sociable effectively dehumanizes them.
  9. There are some popular autism interventions.
  10. Some autistic people behave in ways that get misinterpreted.

Reading Comprehension

True /False/NA-Statements

Directions: Review the following statements from the reading.  If  a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is  not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they  mark  it F and provide the correct answer. 

  1. Autistic people are not interested in other people.
  2. Seventy-five years ago, the first published account of autism described its subjects as “happiest when left alone”.
  3. Autistic people make eye contact.
  4. Autistic people never make odd gestures.
  5. Autistic people experience loneliness, say they want friends.
  6. Naoki Higashida is an autistic author.
  7. Autism is a physical condition that affects how people perceive, think and move.
  8. Echolalia occurs when  people say the same thing over and over again.
  9. Sometimes autistic people repeat phrases as a way of connecting at a deep level.
  10. Improving the social lives of autistic people will require putting aside assumptions about how social interest is expressed.

Grammar: Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

If you assume/consume  a person is not interested in interacting/interact with you, then you probably won’t exert/exit much effort/afford to interact in the first place. This can led/lead to a situation where neither/either person wants to act/interact with the other. Or you might insisting/insist that he or she interact in the ways you expect/inspect socially interested people to interact.

III. Post Reading Activities

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them  discuss the following statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. Do you have a friend who is autistic?  If yes how do you interact with them?
  2. Are there students with autism in your school or class? How do they interact with you and the other students?
  3. The article states, “Wrongly assuming that someone is not socially motivated can have devastating consequences. Being sociable is widely considered to be a fundamental part of being human. The presumption that autistic people are not sociable effectively dehumanizes them.
  4. If you assume a person is not interested in interacting with you, then you probably won’t exert much effort to interact in the first place. This can lead to a situation where neither person wants to interact with the other. Or you might insist that he or she interact in the ways you expect socially interested people to interact.”
  5. The article also states,For all of us, whether we are socially motivated at any given time depends on much more than our innate predisposition for sociability.”

Ask/Answer  Questions

Directions: Have each group list 3  questions they would like to pursue in relation to  the article. Have groups exchange questions. Each group tries to answer the questions listed. All responses are shared as a class.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Social Issues | Tags:

Autistic Children… When the Parents Need Healing

Caring for a child with severe developmental disabilities can be mentally, emotionally, and at times physically stressful for many parents. A  recent study from Vanderbilt University found that just six weeks of training in simple techniques led to significant reductions in stress, depression and anxiety for these parents.

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Nicholas Pinter's autism and bipolar disorder pose challenges for his parents. His father, Mike, right, learned mindfulness methods to help reduce his stress. Credit Pinter family NYT

Nicholas Pinter’s autism and bipolar disorder pose challenges for his parents. His father, Mike, right, learned mindfulness methods to help reduce his stress. Credit Pinter family NYT

Excerpt: When the caregivers need Healing By Catherine Saint Louis  The New York Times

“This has happened before,she tells herself. It’s nowhere near as bad as before, and it will pass.

Robbie Pinter’s 21-year-old son, Nicholas, is upset again. He yells. He obsesses about something that can’t be changed. Even good news may throw him off. So Dr. Pinter breathes deeply, as she was taught, focusing on each intake and release. She talks herself through the crisis, reminding herself that this is how Nicholas copes with his autism and bipolar disorder.  With these simple techniques, Dr. Pinter… blunts the stress of parenting a child with severe developmental disabilities.

Parents of children  with disabilities have more stress than other parents.

Parents of children with disabilities have more stress than other parents.

 All parents endure stress, but studies show that parents of children with developmental disabilities, like autism, experience depression and anxiety far more often. Struggling to obtain crucial support services, the financial strain of paying for various therapies, the relentless worry over everything  from wandering to the future — all of it can be overwhelming. The toll stress-wise is just enormous, and we know that we don’t do a really great job of helping parents cope with it, said Dr. Fred R. Volkmar, the director of Child Study Center at Yale University School of Medicine.

Parents can get overwhelmed. Photo- SRxA

Parents can get overwhelmed. Photo- SRxA

 But a study published last week in the journal Pediatrics offers hope. It found that just six weeks of training in simple techniques led to significant reductions in stress, depression and anxiety among these parents. Part of what makes the experiment innovative is that it was targeted to adults, not their children, and it was not focused on sharpening parenting skills. Instead, parents learned ways to tackle their distress as problems arise. The idea is to stop wasting energy resisting the way life is.” Read more.

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours. 

Materials: Student handouts (from this lesson) access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving  their reading comprehension skills. They will also learn new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.   

I. Pre-Reading Activities

The K-W-L Chart is used to activate students’ background knowledge of a topic in order to enhance their comprehension skills.

Directions: Have students use the KWL chart to list the information they already know about Autism, and what they would like to learn about this topic. Later in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic.

New K-W-L Chart from Read Write Think

New K-W-L Chart from Read Write Think

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance. 

  1. He obsesses about something that can’t be changed.
  2. She talks herself through the crisis.
  3. Dr. Pinter blunts the stress with these techniques.
  4. All parents endure stress.
  5. Researchers randomly assigned 243 mothers.
  6. One group received instructions on curbing negative thoughts.
  7. An assignment in group might entail taking daily notes.
  8. What makes the experiment innovative is that it was for adults.
  9. Learning to quell distress and anxiety is especially important.
  10. Around 41 percent of parents reported anxiety disorders.
Vocabulary Chart by  Freeology.

Vocabulary Chart by Freeology.

Reading Comprehension

True /False/NA-Statements

Directions: Review the following statements from the reading. If a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is  not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they mark it F and provide the correct answer.

  1. Nicholas is the author of the article.
  2. According to Dr. Pinter Nicholas yells to show happiness.
  3. Dr. Pinter teaches English at Belmont University in Nashville.
  4. Dr. Pinter said she descends from a long line of teachers.
  5. The study also focused on medicine for parents.
  6. Dr. Fred R. Volkmar is the director of Child Study Center at Yale University School of Medicine.
  7. The program to help parents takes 2 weeks of training.
  8. During the program the parents were assigned homework.
  9. The experiment targeted both children and adults.
  10. One of the ideas parents are taught is to stop wasting energy resisting the way life is.

Grammar Focus

Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

  1. Dr. Pinter breath deeply, as she was taught.
  2. All parents endure stress.
  3. parents of children with disabilities experience more anxiety.

II

  1. The toll stress-wise is just enormous.
  2. Having an child that has a disability is all-encompassing.
  3. Researchers randomly assigned 243 mothers.

III

 

  1. Stress-reduction groups like these could be a cost-effective way.
  2. Learning to quell distress and anxiety is important of parents.
  3. Mrs. Shouse had to learn how to redirect anxiety.

 

III. Post Reading Tasks

Reading Comprehension Check

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article. 

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion/Writing Exercise

Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.

1. Rephrase the following 3 statements from the article in your own words:

          “All parents endure stress, but studies show that parents of children with developmental disabilities, like autism, experience depression and anxiety far more often. Struggling to obtain crucial support services, the financial strain of paying for various therapies, the relentless worry over everything from wandering to the future — all of it can be overwhelming.”

                “The parents were assigned some unlikely homework: In the mindfulness group, for instance, they were told to bring a moment-to-moment awareness to a daily activity like chopping vegetables. An assignment in the positive development group might entail taking a “guilt inventory” to assess if your guilt is healthy or counterproductive.”

                    “Part of what makes the experiment innovative is that it was targeted to adults, not their children, and it was not focused on sharpening parenting skills. Instead, parents learned ways to tackle their distress as problems arise. The idea is to stop wasting energy resisting the way life is.”

2. Do you or anyone you know care for a child with disabilities? If yes, what are some of the challenges for the caregiver?

ANSWER KEY

Category: Health Issues | Tags: ,